Though these adorable little heirloom squashes are not as well-known as their cousins the acorn squash and the butternut squash, the delicata squash is definitely gaining in popularity – and for good reason. For the gardeners out there, they’re fun and easy to grow, being planted in the summer like a typical summer squash (zucchini, yellow squash), but is actually harvested in the fall like a winter squash (butternut, kabocha, etc). What cooks need to know, however, is that since the skin is thinner and more “delicate” than other popular fall varieties, they are easier to cut and don’t require a terrifying wrestling match using a large, sharp knife (and resulting risk to losing fingers) as is required with the tough butternut squashes. In fact, the skin is thin and tender enough to even be edible when cooked.
I should also mention they are quite delicious. The flesh of the delicata is sweet and creamy and has a flavor so much like a sweet potato that it’s also been known as a sweet potato squash. In this recipe, I’ve stuffed it with a mix of chewy barley, sauteed mushrooms, and Italian sausage. You can serve it as a side dish, but I think it’s hearty enough to eat as the main course. And though I adore these delicata squashes, you can also use this same recipe for acorn and butternut squash, though the actual baking time may vary.
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